Former President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s supporters are lobbying him to contest for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) chairmanship in what is believed to be part of a grand plan to oust President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
Sources inside the Khama camp revealed this week that while he was Vice President Masisi had indicated that he would co opt Khama to come in as party chairman, but he has now gone back on his word.
Khama’s close circle is now trying to convince him to stand for the party chairmanship as ‘a response to what has been happening.’
By ‘what has been happening’ the source was referring to recent moves by Masisi to stop the President from flying official planes, firing Khama’s sidekick, Isaac Kgosi as Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS), scuttling the former President’s tourism interests and cutting back on his security detail.
At the time of going to press it was not clear if the former President had given in to pressure to run for the party chair. BDP Executive Secretary Mpho Balopi said although the BDP constitution allows Khama to stand for the party Chairmanship, traditionally to president has ever done that, ‘and we are a party that honours and respects both our Constitution and tradition.’
Balopi said it would be unfortunate and disrespectful for any party member to try and lobby Khama to stand for a BDP Central Committee position, ‘as the longest serving BDP Secretary General under Khama, I believe he has served with distinction and should be allowed to retire with dignity. He should not be succeed into party contestations, but should be allowed to rise above such contestations and be a unifying father figure. Having said that please put it on record that I am only responding to your questions and I am not aware of any plans by the former president to contest for the BDP chairmanship’ Balopi said.
The latest developments come two months after Masisi’s circle picked intelligence that his rivals in the BDP were mobilising for a future challenge on his presidency. The Sunday Standard can reveal that Masisi’s close circle has received intelligence information that a clique of BDP leaders some in cabinet are trying to deploy their allies in parliamentary constituencies and council wards to de-campaign Masisi’s loyalists so as to erode the president’s base in parliament. The plan to have President Khama headlining the list of the anti-Masisi brigade in the contest for BDP central Committee positions at the party National Congress in two weeks is believed to be part of the plan to dislodge the President from the party. Without a base in Parliament and inside the party, Masisi would be a sitting duck for a challenge on his BDP presidency next year before the party goes to the general elections. And the transfer of power from Khama to Masisi is already proving to be the most traumatic in Botswana’s history.
President Khama’s younger brother, Tshekedi two years ago indicated that he would challenge Masisi for the party presidency next year. Tshekedi confirmed that some members of the party had requested him to contest the elections and he had accepted the request in the interest of not only the party, but also and most importantly the country. He told the media that Khama his father taught him that the country comes first and the party comes second. Should Tshekedi decide to go ahead with his plan, he is likely to have the support of the former president and his close circle.
Former President, Ian Khama who is also the Paramount Chief of Bangwato enjoys royal sway over the Central District which is the biggest voting bloc in the country. There is a strong believe among his supporters that he will be able to translate his chieftainship position into political capital.
The looming challenge on Masisi’s presidency and the believe that former President’ Khama has a fighting chance is understood to have enabled the anti ÔÇô Masisi brigade to retain its critical mass, dividing the country’s cabinet, senior civil service and the country’s disciplined forces.
Masisi however has been making moves to neutralise Khama’s base. The President earlier this year disarmed Tshekedi’s intelligence and won over one of Tshekedi’s most trusted ally, Peter Magosi whom he has now appointed Director General of the DIS.
The new president however has to walk a tight rope and strike a balance between loosening Khama’s grip on power and asserting his authority without harming the BDP unity or creating a groundswell of dissent in the civil service which could result in former president Lt Gen Ian Khama’s loyalists regrouping to destabilise his presidency.